Mayor Tom Henry starts his historic fourth term this month reaffirming a campaign pledge to focus on more than brick-and-mortar projects: health care, the arts community, trails and the environment. All are worthy issues that will go far in making Fort Wayne attractive to the residents we want to retain and attract.
But the groundwork the mayor helped set for a major brick-and-mortar project – Electric Works – looks closer to serving as his legacy achievement. News that an anchor tenant has been identified for the former General Electric campus is an encouraging sign we are close to reigniting an economic engine. In bringing hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in private investment to a struggling area of the city, Electric Works would be a capstone for the Henry administration.
Developer RTM Ventures LLC has asked the city's Redevelopment Commission for a three-month extension on the Feb. 1 deadline to secure leasing agreements and remaining financing. The prospective tenant, whose identity has not been disclosed, wants to lease 200,000 square feet, giving RTM commitments for more than 415,000 square feet of space on the 30-acre Broadway campus. The anchor tenant would bring 500 jobs to Electric Works.
It's an easy call to grant the extension and wait a few months for a major deal to fall into place. No one wants to see the developers walk away and for the campus to be left with no prospects but a wrecking ball.
A successful Electric Works project makes Henry's fourth-term priorities all the more attainable. Imagine the energy a major employer could bring to the near south-side – a market for health care in an underserved part of the city; patrons and volunteers for the arts; fans and active users of the trails; advocates for the environment. It would also create demand for new options in a food desert and for improved housing where the housing stock needs a boost. It's the spark to set the mayor's final term on fire.
What do you think of news of an anchor tenant for Electric Works? Should the city grant an extension on its pledge for public funding? Do you support the project?
Share your thoughts by email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or by mail: Letters to the editor, The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St.,Fort Wayne, IN, 46802.